GE2020: PM Lee urges S'poreans to put aside differences to tackle Covid-19; Pritam to be designated opposition leader

SINGAPORE – With the election now over, it is time for Singaporeans to put aside their differences and come together to overcome the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, protect jobs and “create the future together”, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong early on Saturday (July 11) morning as he addressed the media, an hour after it was confirmed that the People’s Action Party (PAP) won 61.24 per cent of the votes cast.

It was a swing of almost nine percentage points from the 69.86 per cent vote share in the last election in 2015, and saw the opposition win a record 10 seats.

As a whole, Mr Lee said, he was satisfied with the results of GE2020, and the vote share showed wide support for the Government. “I’m honoured and humbled by the faith Singaporeans have put in the PAP,” he said.

But “the percentage of the popular vote is not as high as I would have hoped for”, he said, and the mandate not as strong as he had asked for.

Having described this as a “high-stakes” election, given the serious challenges from Covid-19 and a weakened global economy, PM Lee had urged the people to rally behind his party and show investors that they retain full confidence in the Government. And that was why he had asked repeatedly not just for a mandate, but a “strong mandate”.

But the results reflected ” the pain and anxiety” felt by Singaporeans in this crisis, and the clear desire for a diversity of voices in Parliament.

He said he had called to congratulate Workers’ Party (WP) chief Pritam Singh, whose team did not just extend their share of votes in Aljunied GRC and Hougang SMC, but also managed to win the four-member Sengkang GRC.

Mr Lee also told Mr Singh that with 10 opposition MPs in the next Parliament, the PAP intends to recognise him as the leader of the opposition, and that he will be provided with the appropriate staff and resources. “We will look forward to working together with him,” said Mr Lee.

But he also described the defeat in Sengkang GRC as a disappointment, and a significant loss to the 4G team. The PAP slate which was defeated there included three office holders: Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Ng Chee Meng, who is also NTUC’s secretary-general; Dr Lam Pin Min, a senior minister of state; and Mr Amrin Amin, a parliamentary secretary.

“I have spoken to Chee Meng and the GRC team, to encourage them to serve the party and Singapore in different ways,” he said, and reminded that the PAP will strive to win back Sengkang, Aljunied and Hougang.


Workers’ Party chief Pritam Singh speaking to the media at the party’s headquarters, on July 11, 2020. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, who sat alongside PM Lee during the conference and is prime minister-designate, also stressed the need for the opposition to work with the PAP, when asked what he would say to the business community after the results.

“First, the work of restructuring the economy and transforming our industry must continue. The work of protecting jobs, saving jobs and creating new jobs must continue. I think it’s important for us to continue to emphasis the fundamentals we have and be able to enhance investors’ confidence,” he said.

He added: “I had a short chat with (WP’s) Nicole Seah and Terence (Tan) earlier on, and they said that we must work together… so I look forward to the WP playing a constructive role and putting national interest before party interests.”

Addressing the issue of youth votes, PM Lee said that young people have significantly different life aspirations and priorities compared to older generations. “And this will have to be reflected in our political process and in policies.”


PAP’s Sengkang GRC candidates included Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Ng Chee Meng (left), who is also NTUC’s secretary-general; senior minister of state Lam Pin Min (centre); and Mr Amrin Amin, a parliamentary secretary. PHOTOS: KEVIN LIM, PAP

But he also hoped that the new generation can learn from the hard-won experiences of their parents and grandparents, and not have to learn them again and pay a “high price that’s already been paid”.

“The generations have to work together in order to achieve that and not have a disconnect. And find ourselves with no historical background.”

As for the long queues seen at polling stations across Singapore, which forced voting to be extended by two hours till 10pm, PM Lee said it was partly down to the safety measures to prevent spread of Covid-19. “We will begin a thorough postmortem to ensure next election can be done better.”

But what is critical now, he said, is the task at hand, “which is to get us through the crisis safely”.

“The challenges ahead call for not only a whole-of-government response, but a whole-of-nation response, and that work has continued throughout this campaign, and will carry on starting tomorrow,” he said. “With this election now behind us, let’s work as one Singapore, to secure our lives, our jobs and our future.”

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